On this date in 1964, actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo was born into a conservative family in Newton, N.J. Her family relocated to Houston when she was in high school. She majored in history at Providence College, where she quickly shed her parents' politics. While a college student, Garofalo entered a Showtime-sponsored comedy talent search and won the title of "Funniest Person in Rhode Island." After college, she became a standup comedian. To make ends meet she worked briefly as a bike messenger in Boston. Garofalo's breakthrough came when she befriended actor/comedian Ben Stiller in 1992 and joined the cast of his acclaimed sketch comedy program, "The Ben Stiller Show." She starred in the 1994 Ben Stiller film, "Reality Bites," and was nominated for an Emmy, in 1996, for her role on Gary Shandling's HBO series, "The Larry Sanders Show." She briefly joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1994, worked as a correspondent on Michael Moore's news magazine, TV Nation, and hosted "Comedy Product," a standup showcase on Comedy Central. Garofalo appeared in or starred in films such as, "Now and Then" (1995), "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" (1996), "Larger Than Life" (1996), "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" (1997), "The Matchmaker" (1997), "Cop Land" (1997) and "Dogma" (1999), a film satirizing religion. She starred with Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughan in 1998's "Clay Pigeons," and worked again with Stiller in "Permanent Midnight" (1998) and "Mystery Men" (1999).
In addition to her extensive acting and comedy career, Garofalo has been an outspoken critic of religion. Calling herself an atheist on her radio show, "The Majority Report," Garofalo has become a favorite of the left and a target of right-wing criticism. She helped launch Air America and has been a guest on Freethought Radio (May 26, 2007). Also a noted peace activist, Garofalo has said, "[God] just seems very man-made to me. There are so many theories, and not everyone can be right. It's human nature to need a religious crutch, and I don't begrudge anyone that. I just don't need one" ("Showbiz," Aug. 1995). Garofalo's celebrity has only grown, with appearances on the final season of "The West Wing" (2005-2006), the series finale of "Mad About You" (1999), the voice of Stith on "Titan A.E." (2000), the voice of Colette in "Ratatouille" (2007), and a recurrent role in the 2009 season of the hit show, "24." Garofalo received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, for "telling it like it is" about religion, and in 2007 became a Lifetime member of the Foundation.